Ex-Vancouverite Don Gordon (who's now based in London, England) has been rather quietly producing some of the finest post-industrial electronic music since his debut NUMB release in 1986. Now signed to Metropolis in the US and licensed to Zoth Ommog in Germany, Gordon has just released his 6th studio album, "Language Of Silence", which again features the raw vocals of David Collings alongside Don's powerful and lacerating electronic rhythms and sounds. The music of NUMB is thoroughly aggressive (with machine-gun drum programming, noise-laced samples, and punchy sequencing), with moments of dark and chilling soundtrack terror that add a level of balance and foil for the high-BPM chaos of most NUMB tracks. Gordon is an expert programmer and skilled producer who has even lent his remixing skills to some rather surprising other bands, though he has always focused his time and energy on NUMB.
This interview was conducted with Don in January-February 1999.
GS : Todd Zachritz for GODSEND ONLINE
DG : Don Gordon of NUMB
GS- First, why the big move from Vancouver to London? Does Dave Collings still live in Vancouver?
DG- A couple of reasons. Vancouver was feeling kind of claustrophobic and moving to someplace where I didn't know many people seemed like a good way to get new ideas and re-invent myself. In addition I have a great respect for many of the electronic artists who come from the UK so it seemed like a good way to hook up with them. David moved to Calgary a couple of months after I left Vancouver.
GS- Will that inevitably mean Numb will be focusing it's attention on the European market (as far as tours and releases)?
DG- No. With communications these days where you live isn't really much of an issue.
GS- Your tour with FLA and Die Krupps...general observations looking back...
DG- I think it was a good tour for everyone on the bill. From the perspective of a fan of hard electronic music I think it was a great tour as it presented three acts that are classified within the same genre but who come at it from completely different angles. Apparently the tour was reviewed by some magazines as the 'industrial tour of the year'.
GS- You've said that "Blood Meridian" was a very quick recording, and flowed out rather rapidly, as opposed to previous recordings which took considerably longer to write and record...any particular reason for this, or did it just work out that way?
DG- To combat the time consuming "attention to detail syndrome" that usually accompanies writing with a computer we decided to try a "tag-team" approach to writing where in essence we would spell each other at the computer after short intervals (a bit like playing chess with a clock determining how long you have to make a move). This caused us to generate an excessive number of ideas per song as we didn't get too bogged down in the details of how all the parts interacted. We then filtered through all these ideas to create the songs. In some cases there were so many ideas that two songs could be created from the ideas that we generated for one (i.e. "Critical Mass" and "No Time" both came from one song idea as did the songs "Stalker" and "Blood Meridian")
GS- "Language of Silence" is the album that was finished (but never released) before "Blood Meridian", right?
DG- Before we experimented with the "tag-team" approach to writing we had written a lot of material that was possibly going to be included on "Blood Meridian". We ended up with an excess of material and I felt that the mood the earlier songs were sufficiently different that they didn't fit with the "tag-team" written material. Some of these songs were rearranged this year and along with some newer songs were recorded for "Language of Silence".
GS- Remixes....you've been active in the last few years with a number of remixes..some rather surprising. I imagine Cleopatra invited you for the CHRISTIAN DEATH one, and you were already friends with Dirk Ivens from aprevious tour(for the DIVE remix). As for stuff like the SPIRIT OF THE WEST and THRILL KILL KULT, these were probably thru Ken Marshall, right? Any thoughts and comments on the remix process?
DG- I see the challenge of remixes is to maintain some identifiable 'core' essence of the original song but shape it in such a way as to become what might have developed if I had been involved in writing the song in the first place. It's too easy to just write a completely new song and call it a remix. The Spirit Of the West remix was probably in some ways the most difficult remix I've done in that they were a major label 'pop' band coming from a Celtic background and they and the label wanted something different (hence why I was hired) but had expectations for something that would be playable by a regular fan of the band (challenged perhaps but still listenable).
GS- Your thoughts on electronic music today...do you feel a part of any "scene"?
DG- I've never really felt a part of any particular scene. My interests, both musical and otherwise, have always been rather erratic. I think you see this reflected in the diversity within the NUMB sound.
GS- You've now released nearly all of your work thru Metropolis US except "Koro" and "Fixate"...whatever happened to these? I know "Koro" was released in Japan and "Fixate" on KK Belgium. Any plans for these being re-released for wider availability?
DG- "Koro" was to have been released on Metropolis but it got us into a contractual 'gray area' with another of our licensing partners. In the end it was going to require too much wrangling to put it out in the US. KK has the rights to "Fixate" and at the moment there are no plans to release it in the US.
GS- Why the appearance on "O-Files vol.3" with the "Desire" remixes as well as a separate (and very different) release on KK of the "Desire/Blind" remixes? Will these be released in the US?
DG- The KK release of the "Desire/Blind" remixes was done without consultation with the NUMB and I don't expect to see it's release in the US. OffBeat commissioned us to produce the "Desire" remixes for the O-Files release long before the KK release appeared.
GS- Any chance of seeing any more of your side work like Sin or Downtime?
DG- I'm currently working on a non-NUMB project. It still has a 'dark' mood but it is more melodic and 'ambient' than NUMB. I hope to finish it over the next couple of months. I have not approached any labels with it as of yet.
GS- You've scored several films already. Are you actively pursuing motion picture scores, or are you focusing on NUMB for the time being?
DG- To date NUMB has scored music for a few short films, a play and had one song included in the soundtrack of the Greg Araki film "Totally F****ed Up". We would do more in this area but haven't really had the time or the representation to move into this area in a big way.
GS- What was "The Blood Of The Lambs" performance?
DG- It was a piece that we wrote for the Vancouver Fringe Festival with Madeleine Morris (former vocalist of Moev and Family Plot). It was an album length piece that was structured loosely on the Catholic Requiem but thematically at odds with the concepts of god and organized religion in general. The performance elements and the speech/spoken word aspect were carried by Madeleine while Conan and I created an aural landscape behind her that was half structured and half improvised. There was apparently some problem with damage to the venue caused by excessive 'bottom end'. It has only ever been performed live on this one occasion.
GS- How has NUMB changed, in your eyes, from the early days of "Blue Light" and the self-titled album?
DG- I think the current sound reflects a much wider musical range than the early work and our ability to express ideas and utilize sound has become much more refined and focused. The newer material seduces rather than attacks the listener yet still retains an intense "edge" to it.
GS- Do you remain at all in touch with past NUMB vocalists?
DG- To varying degrees. Sean Stubbs 're-appeared' in the role of drummer/percussionist for NUMB on the '94 european "Wasted Sky" tour and the '96 US tour we did with FLA. Conan Hunter dropped off the face of the planet about 3 weeks before a european tour and I, or anyone else I know, have not seen him since. Alien abduction perhaps? After NUMB, Blair Dobson moved into video and film production so we see each other occasionally.
GS- I've always thought that your work was among the leaders in the genre. Do you ever feel like the "odd man out", so to speak, like NUMB has never received the press and attention it has deserved? Have you ever considered or been approached by a major label? Any thoughts on this?
DG- I always felt that NUMB was probably too eclectic for major label consideration and this was confirmed when I went "major-label shopping" with some new songs shortly before we released "Blood Meridian". Our cover of "Push-It" did generate interest from a a couple of hip-hop labels until they heard what we primarily do.
Thanx graciously to Don for taking the time for this interview.
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